IVF remains one of the most talked about fertility solutions — but what does it involve, and what, really, are the chances of success?
Fertilisation – in utero
Ideally, pregnancy happens in the natural course of a healthy fertility cycle. A sperm fertilises an egg in the mother’s womb (or more specifically, the ampulla of the fallopian tube). The fertilised egg then grows into an embryo and develops in the mother’s body. After nine months the baby is born and the wonderful family journey begins.
But, as many of us know, this process too often breaks down at that very first stage: getting the sperm to fertilise the egg in the body, or ‘in utero’. Since the 1970s, one of the main solutions to this problem is to complete the fertilisation process in a lab, ‘in-vitro’.
What is ‘In-Vitro’ Fertilisation?
To enhance the chances of success, ‘In-Vitro Fertilisation’ or ‘IVF’ for short, begins with the removal of as many eggs as possible from the woman’s ovaries. These are then fertilised with sperm in controlled, laboratory, conditions, and when one is successful, the ensuing embryo is put back in the woman’s body where it can continue grow and develop naturally.
Why might you need IVF?
There are, of course, many reasons a woman might struggle to conceive. These might range from aspects of lifestyle to the quality of the male’s sperm. There might also be issues with specific areas of the woman’s body, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or uterus. It is now clear, however, that one of the major factors that affects a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant is her age.
What does IVF involve?
Those embarking on the treatment will begin by taking a course of fertility drugs. These have two primary aims. Firstly, the treatment aims to improve the growth and development of ovarian follicles so the body can produce as many healthy eggs as possible. Secondly, they control the timing of ovulation so that as many mature eggs as possible can be retrieved. Once the eggs are ready, they are collected and fertilised, and if that fertilisation is successful, a selected embryo is put back in the womb after Pre-implantation Genetic Testing (PGT). There is then a two-week wait to see if it that embryo has taken successfully.
What happens during ovarian stimulation?
The subsequent course of treatment largely depends on whether the patient has received fertility drugs, such as gonadotropins, in the past and how they have responded. For a patient receiving such treatment for the first time, the dosage and regimen are determined by a range of specific, technical factors. (These include the levels of the mother’s follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), estradiol (E2) and anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) concentrations, as well as antral follicle count (AFC), medical history, body habitus, and other variables).
How effective is IVF?
IVF success rates are largely dependent upon the number of mature eggs retrieved in the early stages of the treatment, and the number of healthy embryos then available for transfer. In addition, there is the wait to see if the transfer has been a success, and a further wait to see if those successful embryos come to term. So, there are many critical stages to factor in when considering overall IVF success rates. The age of the mother, however, remains a major factor, and over the age of 42 chances drop dramatically.
So, is IVF right for me?
There is no doubt, however, that for many women, IVF has the been the answer they have been looking for. To find out whether it’s right for you, then there is no substitute for listening to the very best expert advice.